Vakava Team Photo

Vakava Team Photo
Vakava Racers at the Mora Last Chance Race

Tuesday, March 7, 2023

Ben's Birkie Pre-Cap

 My last race report was over a year ago, and was titled "Not Dead Yet".  It even ended with a "To Be Continued..."  Sometimes they just don't renew your favorite show for the next season.

So maybe this is a reboot?

Whatever it is, here we go!

2022 Offseason Recap

Not a super ski focused summer of training that included:

Spring "gravel" rides:

Lutsen 99er (actually 89 this year due to flooding):

Failed attempt to do a Double Duluth Traverse... we got rained out just as we started the return trip.

Ian's first century... on his fixie!

Hosted the 2nd annual Lindstrom Bakgard Ultra:

Did a couple of mounatin bike races with my kid:

DNF'd Marji Gesick Duathlon... again...

Got COVID and missed Artie's now annual 100k roller ski.  Used Artie's special exemption and did a stupid solo 100k roller ski.

Pre-Race Ski Season

So basically I came into the start of serious ski season training not super ski specifically fit.  And maybe slightly less overall fit than many falls.  The power to weight ratio was definitely not improved, both the numerator and the denominator headed in the wrong direction.

Weekly Vakava practice was an exercise in patience and not pushing harder than I should.  Snow came pretty early and I was on snow frequently starting mid November.  By December I was starting to feel like a skier again, though I didn't necessarily have any expectations of a stellar race season.

The holiday season this year resulted in a couple of pretty big weeks for me.  Closing out 2022 had a week with a two long L3 sessions of 2 and 3 hours and another 3 hour OD ski.  That week was followed up with a week that was capped by an epic tour of all of trails in all of the Three Rivers Parks that don't make snow.  Just an 80km day.

Race Season

With all that, it's time to race.

Seeley Hills 42km

Nearly every year I say I should just do the short race.  Nearly every year I sign up for the long race and regret it.  This year was one of those.

I like classic skiing, and I want to like classic racing.  To do that I think I really need to work out my equipment and get better at waxing.

Finn Sisu did the glide waxing for me and my skis were rockets on the downhills.  Unfortunately I did the kick waxing and it was marginal at best.  I tested the kick on some gradual hills and it seemed fine.  But race pace and the bigger hills it just wasn't enough.

I was satisfied with the effort I put out.  I was able to move pretty good on the flats and downhills and keep the effort up.  Just when the trail went up (like the last 11km of the race), I just couldn't move as quick as everyone else.

Woodlands Loppet 20km Skate

I think the original Skinny Santa date might have been one of the few weekends that Woodlands was not great for skiing (or would have been challenging to race on anyway), so the race was pushed to mid-January.

This was a low pressure, low expectations race.  I opted to wax my own skis and did the first race on my Atomic S9 Gen S.  I don't recall what I waxed with this long after racing, but I definitely liked the skis.  Like really liked them.

As the course is pretty tight and the field was pretty big this year, they did a wave start.  That meant wave 2 for me which was probably a good thing.  It allowed me to not go blasting out of the start trying to keep up with the uber fast dudes.  I was able to build into the race which is good because you spend the first 2.5km climbing to Top of the World.  Its pretty easy to blow up 10% of the way into the race.

Matt Peterson and I made a move on Stony Rollers to go to the front of the wave 2 chase pack.  I took the lead part way down Bullsnake Run.  Then just before the tight hairpin turn Matt took a digger.  Post race he said he psyched himself out trying to be ready for the turn.

I raced the rest of the race pretty much solo.  I caught one of the skiers shed from the lead pack, but passed him and dropped him part way into the second lap.

Another race I was happy with my effort and pacing.  Fast skis definitely helped.

Boulder Mountain Tour

The following weekend would have been Noquemanon or Marine O'Brien, both races I really like doing.  But we had other plans this year.  Saturday we started driving west into the teeth of the oncoming polar weather.

We made it to Bozeman Sunday evening and skied Sourdough Canyon at -20F.

Our original plan had us skiing in West Yellowstone the next morning... but it was something like -40F there overnight... so we kept on driving to Sun Valley where we spent the week skiing our brains out.

Anyway 130km of skiing at 5000+ feet of elevation later it was time for the Boulder Mountain Tour.  Definitely a fun race... but not exactly the best prep for it.  I also totally botched the skis.  I only brought my Gen S skis and a bottle of Rex RG42 to wax in the condo with.  My skis were bad.  Eric waxed his skis with some paste wax the night before the race.  On the very first downhill I got in his draft, tucked, and watched him pull away from me.

The course was fun though!  And while I was there to "race", it was more that I was there because of the race.

Mora Vasaloppet Dala 35km Skate

Back in the land of oxygen for a week I tried to get a bunch of recovery in from the big week at altitude.  Basically just super easy skiing other than practice on Wednesday night.

Before the season began I had 4 pairs of skis I would race on.  I took advantage of the Finn Sisu ski swap to sell off two of the pairs of skis that I pretty much never raced on any more.  Then in the course of two days in January I broke the bindings on both of my remaining pair of race skis.  I had Finn Sisu put screw in bindings on my primary pair that I do 75% of my racing on. That was also when I bought my Gen S'.

But for Mora it was looking pretty warm which is really weird for Mora.  I'm used to crazy cold temps for that race.  In any case, the other pair of skis with broken bindings are my warm and sloppy conditions skis.  But they were still broken.  So it was my Gen S or my "universal" skis which I know are less than stellar if it does get wet.  I thought it was going to be colder over night than it turned out to actually be.  So I gambled on my universal skis and lost a bit.

Finn Sisu waxed them again and they were good until they weren't.  I didn't outrace the slop and as the sun started to take its toll my skis sucked.  Literally and figuratively.

I also went out HOT.  It was fun and I was racing with folks I didn't know that I could hold onto.  Turns out I couldn't.  I popped hard about 20km into the 35km race.  Oddly I was able to keep my HR up, I just couldn't move any more.  Partially the skis, but definitely used up all of my anaerobic muscles pushing too much.

Hans passed me like I was standing still and shouted for me to jump on the train.  Thanks Hans... but you put 2.5 minutes into me in that last 10km.

Its a fun race, one where I have had one of my best races ever, so I'll keep going back.  Maybe pace it a little smarter next time...

To Be Continued....

Next up is the Birkie.  Do you believe me if I say I'll actually continue this time?  I guess we will all find out.

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